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Text-message fight obscures real consumer costsGeist-48X68.jpg
Posted by Michael Geist

Of all the recent controversies involving Canada's wireless carriers - and there have been many - my weekly technology law column argues that the fight over the 15-cent charge for the receipt of text messages must surely rank as the most puzzling. The issue, which generated an enormous amount of attention from politicians, company executives, and consumers, effectively came to a conclusion on Friday after Industry Minister Jim Prentice acknowledged that he was not prepared to intervene. Scratch below the surface and it is difficult to understand what all the fuss was about. Text messaging has admittedly become an enormously popular form of communication and the new charges feel like an ill-advised cash grab by Bell and Telus. To be fair, however, the charges are also a relatively minor consumer issue given that the overwhelming majority of wireless subscribers are not affected by it. Moreover, the political reaction reeked of opportunism. Prentice had endured weeks of criticism from consumer groups across the country over his copyright reform bill and may have been looking for a way to re-make himself as a friend of Canadian consumers by briefly vowing to fight over the issue. With the saber rattling over text-messaging charges now concluded, the issue should serve as a wake-up call on several festering problems with telecommunications in Canada. Click here to read more of Michael's blog.

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